If you are planning a visit to La Jolla, you have probably seen pictures of the cute La Jolla seals and sea lions, right? They are one of the top “attractions” in La Jolla and definitely worth seeing.
As a San Diego local, this is always a “must-do” on our itinerary, when we have friends and family visiting. To be honest, not just then, as Greg and I love heading to La Jolla to enjoy the scenery, restaurants, and of course, the sea lions and seals. But where are the best spots to see the La Jolla seals and sea lions? Read on and find out!
Important: Before we dive in though, I need to give you a bit of a lecture. When you go see the seals and sea lions in La Jolla, do it in a responsible and non-harming way. These are wild animals and not cuddle buddies. Not only can they attack and injure you, but they also need the space and peace to do their thing and not be disturbed by people on the hunt for the perfect seal selfie.
This is especially important during pupping season (May 1 – October 31). If you get too close, you could be the reason that the mother abandons her pup or introduce diseases and illnesses to the seal and sea lion population. There have been numerous incidents of people trying to go touch the seals, take selfies with them, poke them, or throw sand/rocks/sticks at them. Always remember that they are wild animals. Go and enjoy the seals, but do it in a safe and sustainable way.
Where to See the La Jolla Seals – Map:
The viewing points are all pretty close to each other and within walking distance. The complete distance is 0.7 miles and without stopping, it should take you about 15 minutes. However, if you take photos, walk down to the individual beaches, and spend time watching the animals, you can easily spend 1-1.5 hours on this walk. I recommend you either start at the La Jolla Caves and work your way South, or the other way around.
La Jolla Children’s Pool
La Jolla Children’s Pool aka Casa Beach is probably one of the most popular spots to see the La Jolla seals. Blocked by a crescent-shaped sea wall (currently closed due to construction) to reduce waves and currents, the Children’s pool was created in the 1930s as a family beach.
However, it quickly was taken over by seal pups instead of children, which created a bit of rivalry between animal rights activists and local families and their right to free and unlimited beach access through the California Coastal Act. The compromise (after several lawsuits) is now to close off the beach during pupping season (December 15 – May 15) and when fecal contamination levels are too high. Yes, you read that right. Fecal contamination (mostly by the seals and sea lions, not so much the children 😉).
So I personally don’t recommend going down on the sand in this spot, even when it is open. Stay on the coastal walkway and enjoy the views from there or go on the sea wall, once it is re-opened. This is also the beach where you will predominantly see seals, while on the other beaches, sea lions are more common.
Interesting Fact: Casa Beach is the only seal rookery between the US/Mexico Border and Ventura County.
Boomer Beach/Point La Jolla
Point La Jolla, also known as Boomer beach is also a great spot to watch marine mammals. In 2022, the city evoked an emergency closure as the seals’ natural habitat was overrun by visitors who did not keep enough distance from the animals. Even from the coastal path, you will be pretty close to the seals and can watch them without interfering with them.
La Jolla Cove
One of the most stunning beaches in San Diego, La Jolla Cove is a small beach popular with snorkelers, divers, swimmers, and seals. As I said, it is a very small sandy beach surrounded by a steep cliff, so there is not a lot of space to avoid getting in close contact with the animals. Always pay attention to your surroundings and try to stay as far away from the wildlife as possible.
If you are into snorkeling, this is a great spot to see the seals and sea lions underwater and watch their elegant and playful demeanor. The seals and sea lions in La Jolla are so used to people, they often initiate play or come to check you out.
However, pay attention to the behavior of the animals. Try not to get between a momma seal and her pup or she might chase you off the beach. And of course, don’t antagonize the animals in any way.
Seal Rock/Shell Beach
Another small sand beach with steep cliffs and the famous seal rock is another favorite hangout spot for the La Jolla sea lions and seals. Depending on how low the tide is, the sandy area can be quite small and might even be completely underwater, so pay attention to the water levels. The best angle to see the sea lions is from the little green hut perched on the cliff overlooking the small beach.
La Jolla Sea Caves
One of my favorite ways to watch the sea lions and seals in La Jolla is by kayak. Greg and I did a La Jolla kayaking tour around the famous La Jolla Sea Caves a few years ago and one of the highlights was when a seal jumped out of the water and snatched up a spiny lobster from an exposed rock on the cliff. The seals and sea lions were swimming all around us and it was fun to watch them in their natural habitat.
Other Places to See Seals and Sea Lions in San Diego
Of course, seals and sea lions don’t just live in La Jolla. There are a few more spots to see them in San Diego and here they are:
Seaport Village/Tuna Harbor
When you walk along the waterfront in Seaport Village and Tuna Harbor, you can often hear and see California sea lions. Your best bet is Saturday morning at the Dockside Fish Market between 8 am and 1 PM. The fisher boats dock right off the pier and throw scraps overboard, attracting the sleek mammals.
Bait Docks in Point Loma
If you do a northbound harbor cruise or hop on the amphibious “Seal Tour”, you will make your way to the northern end of San Diego Bay, where you come across the Point Loma bait docks. The area is teaming with wildlife and you will see lots of seals and sea lions sunning on the wooden floats and markers.
FAQs – La Jolla Seals & Sea Lions
Sea lions have little ear flaps, while seals do not. Sea lions have stronger flippers, so they move around “half-standing”, while seals belly-rob on land. Seals have rounder features and often look plumper, while seals often look a bit leaner and more agile.
Mornings and afternoons are best, as they tend to fish mid-day. During low tide, they have more space to spread out, so it might look like there are fewer and they might choose to lay further away from the boardwalk. The largest number of seals can be seen between the end of April and the beginning of June and the fewest between July and September during the hot day-time hours.
Most seal babies are born between February 8th and March 8th.
Call the Marine Mammal Rescue: +1-800-541-7325
5-6 feet and up to 300 pounds.
Approximately 200 seals.
Last Updated on May 18, 2023 by Maria Haase
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